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Alive and Kicking No More: What Ever Happened to Sipa

by Sports Team
31 Jul 2017 | 2:10 PM

The eternally-loved game of kick, hasn't kicked in for as long as Juan can remember. Should the status quo stay the same, kick may soon kick the bucket for good.

If you are to list down the most popular traditional games ever played in the Philippines, there's a great chance that kick, or sipa, is the first thing that would pop into your mind. Predating the Spanish rule, sipa has been a vital source of enjoyment to Filipinos-before we were even called Filipinos. Whether you use your foot or elbow, this native game never fails to wax nostalgia of your childhood.

Sipa for Dummies
For anyone who didn't get to play it even once, sipa is a game of kicking a rattan ball or a lead washer covered in cloth or plastic. A team sport or a simplified play of one on one, this indigenous game requires agility, speed, and ball control.
 

 

It comes in two variations: Sipa Bilangan and Sipa Mundasa. The first involves two opposing teams, wherein players have to kick the fly up and down until it touches the ground. One point is awarded for every successful kick. Sipa Mundasa, on the other hand, is a game of kicking the fly the farthest. Each team has a tosser and a kicker. The tosser throws a lob to the kicker who will then kick the fly at a distance. The kicker has three tries, and the farthest distance is considered as the official point scored for the team. Missing the fly, however, forfeits the kick. A toss coin determines whose team goes first on both games.

As time passed by, more versions of the game arose-players taking the liberty to change the rules and modified the sport into several forms. The sipa played in Cavite may be different from the game people relished in Ilocos-same goes with every island across the archipelago.

Former National Sport
Sipa has been a national symbol in the Philippines until 2009. That year witnessed then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made arnis the national martial arts and sports in the country by signing Republic Act 9850. The game was officially dethroned for the reason that nobody really plays it anymore. Children hear about it in classes, but learning is different from practicing.

Killed by Technology?
A prime culprit for the apparent drop in popularity of sipa is the advent of electronics. This holds true, as any kid nowadays would rather stay glued to game consoles, kill time with apps, or watch endless YouTube videos than play actual games outdoors. Some may argue that millions of Filipino families don't have the means to buy a smartphone or tablet, but decent Internet access is cheap and is widely available even in the slums. "Piso net" allows anyone to go online for at least four minutes for just one peso, giving even street children the chance to surf the Net and consume media in exchange of coins. With too much digital distraction around the corner, it's not hard to imagine why sipa struggles to enter the mere consciousness of the young in this modern age.

Tradition Thrown into Oblivion
Many like to point the finger at technology, but maybe no one is to blame but us, Filipinos. Games like sipa are called traditional sports because they were passed on from generation to generation for centuries. But when was the last time you saw a father teaching his son his first kick. Teachers may blurt out the term inside the classroom, but schools don't really allot space in the curriculum for students to play the game. This lack of action, or worst, the initiative, to keep the tradition of sipa alive is what actually digs the grave for our native sport. 

The Philippines may have seen its last sipa-playing generation in the late - 90s or early 2000s. The game was last seen in Palarong Pambasa 2012, but was cut out from the list of events in the last two editions of the national games. There's no telling if kick would rise from the ashes someday, but it's only possible should one of great influence will serve as a catalyst to re-introduce the sport to the young, and prevent sipa from being reduced into a game Filipinos used to play.